Nigeria Striking a Delicate Balance

A tough and spirited military leader is off to a promising start

As diplomats and VIPs assembled at Lagos' Tafawa Balewa Square for Nigeria's 25th Independence Day celebrations last October, a sudden downpour sent many notables scrambling for cover under the grandstand. Within moments, ordinary Nigerians in the bleachers were soaking wet. So was a bullish army officer striding across the parade grounds. Spurning an aide's offer of an umbrella, Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 44, continued to inspect a military honor guard in the rain. The crowd roared its approval and gave a standing ovation to the new President of Africa's most populous nation.

That common touch has served Babangida well since...

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